So much of the advice for photographers (really, for any small business owner) is to get super clear on your Why. Mostly I find attempts to write down why I take photos descend into overthinking and general cheese pretty quickly, but I think it’s important to keep talking about what pushes me to take photos so I can better connect with you, dear reader, for whom my reasons (hopefully!) resonate. So I’ll try to keep it together and hopefully we can all get out of here more or less unscathed.
Mostly my Why is pretty straightforward. I believe daily life is worth documenting. Your life, my life, casual snaps, professional photos. It’s all worthwhile, because it’s all part of the chronology.
I did a shoot in mid-summer, while Elise and Dan’s mother was visiting from Ontario and right before Dan left for a far-flung job that would keep him away for the next two years (also when BC was down to roughly 5 covid cases per day and I still though I’d be able to go home for Christmas. sigh.) They wanted to mark the moment and do something tangible to tie them together while they’re apart.
So when I got a text from Elise, telling me she’d cried “the good and sad/missing” kind of tears upon opening the prints she ordered for Christmas, and that she would treasure the prints and the memory they held, I really felt like I must be doing something right. Creating beautiful memories out of small moments so they become forever a part of your chronology is my Why.
Surprise & Recognition
Her response to unwrapping her prints also perfectly encapsulates the two-fold goal I bring into every shoot (I’ve written about it before): To create for you both surprise and recognition.
It’s not that she hadn’t seen the images before. All the images were and still are available in her gallery to gaze upon as often as she wanted, download and share around with family members. But seeing the prints and holding them in her hands sparked a bigger feeling, a return to that moment that looking at the photos on a screen couldn’t create. But it was also familiar, this return to how it felt to be together. Remembering sharing a bottle of wine while picking raspberries and telling me about the different plants in the yard. That’s what prints can do.
It wasn’t some major life milestone. We didn’t fuss over location (also, why would you when you have a backyard garden in summertime Vancouver?) or wardrobe and the whole thing was over in about 45 minutes. It was just a simple piece of the story of one family’s life.
I love history (I have a degree in it!) And it has always been the histories of small things and everyday things that have felt most meaningful for me. And that’s exactly what I want my photos to be.
It Will All Be History
A few days ago my cousin sent a screen cap to the family group chat of a black and white photo she found in her house, which used to belong to my great aunt Joan, her grandmother. My cousin thought at first that it was a photo of her own mother but it was a photo of Aunty Joan when she was in 8th grade. Aunty Joan looks like a combination of her daughter and her granddaughter. Everybody exclaimed at the resemblance, and somebody shared that the photo, which includes a handful of other tweens, was of the group of winners from a public speaking contest wherein Aunty Joan spoke about her dog Perky.
Everyone loved it, which for me is just further evidence that it’s the little moments we ultimately crave most. I always enjoy looking at Aunty Joan’s wedding photos, or her graduation from nursing school at the same university I went to. But this little snapshot feels as much to me like a portal into her life as either of those big milestones. I like the little moments the most.
Your history is important, and while this moment right now, or the one where you’re standing in front of my camera might not feel like history, at some point it will. And it will take less time than you think for the print of that moment to feel like the artifact that it is.
Anyway, thank you for coming along on this (I hope) minimally cheesy journey with me, and please enjoy a couple of my favourites from Elise, Dan and Patricia’s shoot.